All Hail The Hybrid Work Model

Experts gauge the effectiveness of a hybrid work model and it becoming the new normal for the A&M industry

In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the business work style has changed entirely. Employers around the world are straddling a bridge between yesterday, when employees were physically present at work, and tomorrow, when employees make a safe return to offices. However, with normalcy reinstating itself, employers and knowledge workers are warmly receiving the emerging concept of split time between home and office, often touted as a hybrid or blended work model. And amidst this transition, one thing is definite- remote working earning a permanent place in the employment mix.

A few industries, including A&M, have traditionally been very reluctant to let employees work from home due to the conventional wisdom of physical presence in office being critical for productivity and efficiency. For Hema Malik, COO, Lodestar UM, the hybrid-working model is more of a mindset shift than just logistics. “This forced experience has opened our vision to many newer opportunities. Keeping needs and requirement of our industry in mind, the right adaptation of hybrid work model will allow us to recruit better talent, provide a better work-life balance to our employees and above all create value for all clients and stakeholders,” she believes.

“What may have been a little bit of crawl in the early days of the lockdown, is now at its expanded potential,” points Anusha Shetty, Chairman and Group CEO, GREY group India.“I would never have believed agency professionals could migrate to remote formats of working so efficiently. Colleagues are self-disciplined, commitments are met and we are doing some fabulous work,” she states.

Convinced that the pandemic has been an eye opener on flexible work solutions, Tarun Rai, Chairman and Group CEO, Wunderman Thompson, South Asia asserts,“It has demonstrated people’s ability to leverage technology for productivity and helped improve efficiency. Moreover, it has freed up talent and increased collaboration across geographical boundaries. It would be a shame if these learnings of this period are not carried forward into the post pandemic world. Hence,a 50/50 hybrid work model is, thus, a good solution in the long term, where we ‘plan’ for only 50% of people in office on any given day.”

Opportunities & Obstacles

The marketing experts are of a unanimous belief that a 50/50 hybrid model is an improvement on the WFH model that was perhaps ‘insular’ and limiting. On the flip side, it is disadvantageous to a business that thrives on creativity and ideas generated through team huddles and social interactions. Moreover, boundaries of work and home were completely blurred, leading to burnouts and increased anxiety levels. Hence, a 50/50 hybrid solution will eventually give people the benefit of both worlds.

Shefali Khalsa, Head – Brand and Marketing, SBI General Insurance concurs that the key to success here is to have a mix of both in place. “With the right mix, organizations will recruit better, achieve innovation, and create value for all stakeholders. It will help employees redesign and reimagine their work. A blended model has full potential to be very successful, with strategic planning and technology support to keep employees connected. Organizations must focus on developing a digital culture that includes experiences and allow individuals and teams to complement those with in-person events,” she adds.

Malik is of the opinion that the hybrid model has more advantages. “One of the biggest being better efficiency and increase in productivity.” She goes on to add, “Having said that, no model comes with its disadvantages and especially in our industry. I feel we can do a lot more to develop dynamic client experiences. We should also focus on bridging gaps to eliminate isolation issues if anyone is facing and find ways to reduce over-dependence on technology.”

Uncontested Role Of Digital Collaboration 

All throughout this testing time, technology remained an integral part of carrying out effortless and seamless work functions. With intertwining technology and technology platforms, it gave the much-needed impetus to human capability to power growth, innovation, efficiency, and resilience.

“This change in the way we work goes hand-in-hand in the way we measure employee engagement and productivity. Project management tools can track projects, manage teams, facilitate conversation and drive engagement. Their role is indisputable,” points Rita Verma, EVP & Head – HR, DDB Mudra Group.

Shetty too agrees that technology has been integral to ‘remote working’. “I know we couldn’t have pulled this off so efficiently without technology support,” she adds.

Key Work Trends Defining The New Work Style
Experts suggest that this blended work model will mark the arrival of mini-smart workplaces, with study areas being part of every home. As for the offices, they will become smaller, cooler and smarter. Savings will be ploughed back into better experiential zones.

Rai jots some of the other trends that are expected of this work model-empathetic leadership, increased self-discipline, more efficiency, better utilization of talent, greater focus on wellness and an increased focus on employee well-being.

“Quicker turn-around time, customized solutions and freelancing opportunities to come out as some of the natural trends,” shares Khalsa.

Verma further elaborates, “Some of the more obvious advantages are that when you have lesser commute time, you are more focused towards work and can spend more time with your family. Other less obvious ones, but which have a longer-term impact, is the change this has brought about in the job landscape. However, what we do have to guard against is allowing work to bleed into personal life. And companies and individuals both have to collaboratively work towards fixing this issue.”

Drawing inferences from the expert opinions above, the question on a hybrid work model becoming the new normal for the A&M industry, feels so normal and natural today. While our industry seemed apprehensive to consider it a year ago, the location from where we work today is immaterial, as long as we all ‘know and do’ our work. ‘Coming together’ and ‘working remotely’ happening in parallel will ultimately be the new future. With every industry now embracing this new business model, it's surely here to stay in varying degrees.